Eats in Europe will account for everything I ate in Europe, well, most everything, well, at least the interesting things.
Our transcontinental transatlantic Virgin Atlantic flight was San Francisco to London, so England was the beginning and ending of our 2007 European odyssey. I addressed our first meals in Stansted Mountfitchet, England in England Edition 1. I’ll address our meals in London, just before flying back to San Francisco, in this installment.
Mela: Indian Cuisine
We ate at Mela on our last trip and it was a new and satisfying experience.
Mela is basically a square, storefront room on the busy Shaftesbury Avenue in SOHO. I would call it undecorated. OK, the sidewall toward the back has a tile pattern, and the lighting is soft and adjustable, thick white tablecloths complete the décor.
We were seated in the back of the main dining room. As we sat down, Carol said, “I’m glad we’re not near that woman passed out in her own vomit.” I hadn’t noticed, but over to my right, against the wall, a woman sat, sort of sprawled, with her head on the table and a napkin over it. OK, I guess I won’t look that way. The staff seemed to be ignoring her.
We studied the menu. It came down to chicken, lamb, seafood, and vegetarian in a number of different sauces, spices, and preparations.
From my seat, I could see the activity on the street outside through the big glass storefront. I guess that is part of the décor. An ambulance pulled to a stop in front and two paramedics came in for the woman. She wasn’t too happy about being disturbed, got up in a huff to start for the door and nearly fell down. Oops! First she had to sit and take off her 9-inch heels. Blonde, five-six or so, little black dress, she made her way outside and the medics followed.
London theater? We are in the theater district. After that, the food was incidental.
I sprung for the Lobster Stir Fry, “fresh lobster treated with lime and turmeric, tossed in peppery onion and fennel masala, served on a bed of naan bread.” The lobster was overcooked and overwhelmed by the sauce and vegetables. But it was served with a wonderful, crunchy salad of red onion rings, cucumber, green pepper and zucchini.
Carol had Murgh Tikka Makhanwala, “Grilled chicken tikka in fenigreek flavored creamy tomatoes.” Carol said it was fine, too much to eat.
Dessert was good, Gulab Jamin with a scoop of ice cream.
Lord Kensington Hotel
Complementary Continental Breakfast
St John Bread and Wine
Eric said, “Be sure to go to St John Bread and Wine for lunch.”
Getting there was half the fun as we rode the top of a bus across London from southwest to northeast to find ourselves in a neighborhood vastly different from the one we left. We overshot our intended bus stop and had to walk for a while and ask a young woman if she knew St John. “Go this way, left at the second street.”
St John is an elegant, but plain white wood storefront in the midst of brick and dark green commercial buildings. We arrived early for lunch, but were invited to wait in out of the rain with a coffee until noon. We’re in a rectangular, loft storefront building, painted white. The lights, the coatpegs around the walls, the tables and chairs, the details of the open kitchen, give it away as being thoughtfully created and hint that the food might be as simple and elegant as the décor.
Just at noon, the doors were flung open and servers were at the ready. The staff was polite, though slow paced, and the food was meant to come when ready, not on a schedule.
We started with a bowl of green olives.
Carol had the Squash Soup and Potted Hare. The soup was straightforward, pureed, lightly spiced. We have a candidate squash at home.
Carol expected the Potted Hare to be a tureen of some sort, but got a mound of shredded meat that had been cooked in its own fat. Eight gherkins were arranged to one side. She was surprised, than pleased, then awed by the flavor.
I had the Fennel and Beekswell, a cake of simply sliced fennel, layered with goat cheese and baked. To finish, the top was spread with a mixture of milk and cheese and broiled for 2 or 3 minutes to brown. To the side were three pickled walnuts.
The fennel was just firm to the bite and mild enough, yet carrying its own flavor to complement the goat cheese.
W â€¢ O â€¢ W
We shared a Bread Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce for dessert, and again a surprise! The pudding was very dark, with currents and apple – nearly like mincemeat – with dense dark bread instead of meat. It was served hot with a scoop of ice cream.
Another W â€¢ O â€¢ W
We were in St John until two o’clock and didn’t mind a minute of it. The place was humming by one, and many aspiring diners were turned away.
And yes, there was a bit of excitement on the street during our stay. Through the window, I saw a hoisting rig dangling above a white Toyota Corolla. I had to go out and have a look. The car was illegally parked and a flatbed truck with a hoist had come along to pluck it from its spot and take it away. How efficient.
Sunday Mid Afternoon
Earl’s Court Road
We got the Sunday Times and went to a pub, the living room of the small apartment dweller and the small hotel resident. We chose the Blackbird, a quiet, living room type pub. Down the street, we tried the Bell in Hand, a sports pub, raucous and crowded, just right for the right time, but not for this lazy, rainy afternoon.
I ordered a half pint of Stella and started writing about Barcelona while Carol settled in with her Sunday Times. The afternoon passed.
Coke for Carol
Pint of Carlsberg
Spicy Potato Wedges for munchies.
I took a walk to get some air and found an Italian place a few blocks away. The walk in the light rain was very refreshing. We didn’t need any more rich Pub food, especially after our wonderful lunch; but by then it was nearly 7 o’clock.
Strada is a neighborhood Italian place where Earls Court Road meets Brampton Road serving Pasta and Pizza for families and wondering travelers.
We entered into a squarish, no tablecloth, dining room and were led to a more narrow, cozy bar area beyond. The lighting was soft, the atmosphere comfortable and convivial. We were seated next to a family-o-four enjoying some good-looking pasta and a pizza.
Insalata di Spinachi, “Baby spinach leaves, sliced avocado, smoked pancetta, parmesan shavings, mustard dressing.”
Just right and good! Says Carol.
Ravioli con Pesto e Pomodoro, “Freshly made spinach and ricotta ravioli served with a tomato, garlic and pesto sauce.”
Fresh home made pasta!
The dishes were tender and bright and just right to finish our Sunday. Only one more thing was needed to cap off the evening: Limoncello, Cognac, and espresso.
Indeed they did. The guy at the front desk simply turned his monitor around and gave me his keyboard.
Virgin Atlantic Snack
Flying to the end of the food, Somewhere over Somewhere.
In the center, a petite ham sandwich and tuna salad sanwich. Pretty good.
A final note on Time: